Babywearing is all the rage in the infant and toddler world these days, but knowing the when, why, and how of it can be overwhelming for any new parent. Never fear DNH readers--I'm here to guide you through the ins and outs of babywearing!
WHEN: I think the better question is, "When would you NOT wear your baby?" I wear my little guy while vacuuming, while playing fetch with the dogs, on walks, at the grocery store, at the zoo, hiking to the top of a mountain....I could go on and on and on. By far the most convenient place I've worn my baby boy: the airport. No worries about handling luggage and a baby for me! There's actually an entire blog dedicated to stories about where babies are worn. Check out "Where We Wear" some time!
WHY: This is a big one for baby wearers because there really are so many benefits. From the list above, you can probably tell the convenience for the parent is high on the list. My hands are free to do other things while my guy is securely attached. Of course, it's not just about the benefit to mom and dad (or aunts, uncles, grandparents, babysitters--anyone who cares for your child!), it's also about priority #1: your child. Teething or sick baby that needs extra snuggles?: Wear him! Baby with stranger anxiety and you're headed into a crowd?: Wear her! Stuck at an event with a baby that needs to nap?: Wear her! Newborn that wants to do nothing but nurse?: That's right--wear him!! (Yes, you can nurse with your baby in a carrier. It just takes a little practice.) Baby wearing is not just a convenience, it's a bonding experience that allows for lots of forehead kisses and bottom pats.
HOW: Now that you know when and why to wear your baby, it's time to get down to the "how". The first thing you need to know is how to safely wear your baby. Babywearing International offers some great guidelines on their page. First of all--make sure baby can breathe by ensuring his chin isn't curled against his chest and that his face isn't covered by fabric. Secondly, make sure the carrier you use is appropriate for your child's age and size. Third, make sure baby is in a position that supports the spine and encourages proper hip development. The position you're looking for is generally known as the "M position" (fabric support from knee to knee with knees above the bottom) or the Kangaroo position for newborns. Graphics to illustrate both are below. Click here for more detailed safety tips on Babywearing International's site.
The next thing to know is about all the carrier choices out there. There are four main types: wraps, ring slings, mei tais, and soft structured carriers. You are probably most familiar with soft structured carriers, like the Ergo, and these happen to be my personal favorite. They are quick to get on and off, can be worn with baby in back or front, and often come with "bells and whistles" such as pockets and hoods. We actually own two because we found that the Kindercarry brand fits my husband's frame a bit better.
Very similar to the soft structured carrier is the Mei Tai, an asian-style baby carrier. These have the same fabric panel as the soft structured carriers, but the straps are wrapped and tied around the wearer. I don't have experience with one, but fans of Mei Tais rave that they're quite snuggly and that the straps allow for a very personalized fit.
Image: Tender Cargo
Another very popular type of carrier is the ring sling. These are worn over one shoulder (messenger bag style) and give a very snuggly feel, making them especially popular for newborns. Ring slings are easy to get on and off, can be adjusted with one hand, and can be used for front and hip carries. Below is a pic of a friend all cozied up with her little one (in the ring sling I used with my little guy when he was wee). Isn't her sweet smile infectious?!
We've now come to the last step in our babywearing journey...wraps! These have a culture all their own and definitely the biggest learning curve in the babywearing world. However, they also offer the greatest versatility and, once you get the hang of them, can be a lot of fun to explore! Stretchy wraps, like the popular Moby, are an excellent option for newborns. When worn properly, they're very comfortable and provide baby with tons of support. I loved wearing my little guy in our Moby for the first few months. Once he hit about 15 pounds though, I needed something that wouldn't stretch out under his weight. That's when I switched to a woven wrap. These can safely and comfortably carry more weight and can also be used for back carries once baby has good head and neck control and their hips and legs can spread naturally. If you're interested in woven wraps--or babywearing with ANY type of carrier--I encourage you to look for a babywearing group in your area! You're likely to find a plethora of knowledgeable parents just waiting to help you dive into babywearing. If you're in the San Diego area (like me), click here to check out our local group.
I know that was a TON of info. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I am by no means an expert on the subject--just an amateur enthusiast! All opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have not been paid by any of the listed manufacturers. Before wearing your child, please ensure that you follow the safety steps linked above and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about whether or not your child can be worn.